50th birthday holiday ideas
By Mark Hodson, Sunday Times Travel Writer and Editor of 101 Holidays
If you – or your partner – have a 50th birthday coming up, a holiday is a great way to celebrate. But where to go and how to make it extra special? Here’s our guide to the very best 50th birthday holiday ideas and where to book them.
The first decision you need to make is whether to invite lots of friends or make it just the two of you – or perhaps just you and a handful of close friends. If you want to make a party of it, consider renting a large house in the UK, which works out at much better value than a hotel and means that your friends and relatives don’t need to fork out on airfares. If it’s just the two of you, there’s a great choice of special weekend breaks and holidays. Here’s how to celebrate your 50th birthday in style.
Holiday rentals in the UK
Olivers Travels has a collection of historic houses to rent in Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland that cater to groups from six up to 60 people. Examples include a 17th-century castle in the seaside town of Clevedon, Somerset, that has its own indoor pool. Three nights cost from £275 per person based on 16 sharing.
For smaller groups, the Cotswolds ticks a lot of boxes, not least because it’s easy to reach from large parts of the UK. Check out this collection of luxury rental properties. From London, Sussex is easy to reach, offering beach and countryside on your doorstep.
How about celebrating your birthday on the water? Waterways Holidays rents out canal boats and sailing boats that sleep up to 12. Popular destinations include the Norfolk Broads. Check out the latest special offers.
City breaks for 50th birthdays
If it’s just the two of you, and you want something really special, there are certain city break destinations that work well for a 50th birthday. Popular choices include Barcelona, Venice, Madrid and Rome, but I also recommend less obvious charmers such as Seville, Lisbon, Vienna and Budapest.
In Russia, St Petersburg is spectacular, particularly if you visit in either summer – when the sun shines long into the evening – or the winter, when the city is thick with snow and there is ice skating on the river. Check out more holiday ideas in Russia.
If you’re looking for special things to do for a winter 50th birthday, how about chasing the Northern Lights. Head to Tromso in Norway or to Reykjavik, the lively capital of Iceland. For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, spend a night at the Ice Hotel in Sweden or a Glass Igloo in Finnish Lapland.
Somewhere different? How about historic Luxembourg staying at the five-star Hotel le Place d’Armes.
Sports fans will love these exciting sporting breaks. How about Formula One (Monaco? Monza?) with grandstand tickets and pit lane access, or a rugby tour (Six Nations? Hong Kong Sevens?) or a horse racing weekend (Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe? Dubai?).
For the ultimate 50th birthday treat, you could treat yourself to a short break by private jet. This works out to be surprisingly affordable, particularly if you return on the same day and take along a few friends or family members. You can take off from an airport or airstrip of your choice and head to France or even Italy for an indulgent lunch.
Treat hotels for couples in the UK
How to celebrate your 50th birthday in the UK? A luxury hotel in the British countryside? Three Choirs Vineyards in Gloucestershire has its own vineyard and is known for its gourmet cuisine. Another great hotel for a 50th birthday is Gilpin Lodge in the Lake District.
If you want to get deep into the countryside, I recommend Pen-y-Dyffryn, a charming Georgian country house hotel set in the rolling hills of the Welsh borders. Or spend a few days in the pretty town of Bishops Castle in Shropshire, where The Castle Hotel offers gastro food, 12 contemporary rooms and beautiful walks on its doorstep.
For something more quirky and boho chic, try this selection of hip hotels including an arty B&B overlooking the Yorkshire Dales, a lovely Georgian hotel in Bristol and a gorgeous Cotswolds pub with rooms.
You’ll find some stunning ideas in Scotland. You could rent a classic car and drive the spectacular North Coast 500. Experience a whisky holiday in the Highlands and Islands or explore the Seafood Trail from Glasgow out to Wester Ross.
Another option is to sail the Hebrides on a small crewed boat, exploring remote islands such as Mull, Jura, St Kilda and Iona, where you can see dolphins, porpoises, basking sharks and otters.
The island of Jersey has a fascinating history – you can explore castles, Second World War tunnels, hidden coves and wide open beaches. There’s a thriving restaurant scene and it’s easy to reach from across the UK. Stay at the Pomme d’Or Hotel in the capital St Helier, or escape to the Greenhills Country House Hotel.
For a cultural break, take a look at Martin Randall Tours which runs expert-led group tours in art, classical music and architecture.
More 50th birthday holiday ideas in Europe
If you want a blast of year-round sunshine with a short flight, head to Madeira – you’ll find some charming hotels and quintas, and ancient walking paths through the mountains. There are direct flights from across the UK.
How about a luxury trip on the Venice Simplon-Orient Express. The classic journey is London to Venice – this three-night break includes two nights in a five-star hotel, and you arrive in style in a private water taxi.
You could join one of these escorted tours to Italy to soak up serious amounts of culture, history, wine and amazing food. How about delving deep into Pompeii and Herculaneum or discovering the Amalfi Coast. Check out these last-minute offers.
Or indulge in a short break to Paris with the experts at Kirker Travel who can recommend a perfect hotel for you, such as the charming Le Pont Royal on the Left Bank or the Pavillon de la Reine, a boutique hotel tucked away in the Marais.
If it’s his 50th, how about a golfing weekend? Don’t worry if you’re not joining him on the fairways – you’ll find some great hotels with spas and luxury pools, such as Sir Rocco Forte’s Verdura Resort in Sicily.
In summer you could take a luxury hotel barge in France, travelling sedately by canal through picturesque regions such as Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Canal du Midi. The barges sleep up to 20 so you could persuade friends to take some of the other cabins. Gourmet dining, fine wines, an open bar and excursions are included.
Between May and October you can take a short break in Corsica thanks to twice-weekly direct flights (just two hours flying time).
Italian hoteliers know all about style and hospitality. Enjoy the sports, spa and superb beach at Forte Village Resort in Sardinia.
Italy hosts some magical events including the Venice Carnival in February and summer open-air performances at the Verona Opera Festival. Or get together with friends or family to rent a villa in Tuscany.
You can find opera holidays all year round in many of the world’s greatest cities.
Adventure holiday trips for a 50th birthday
Your 50th birthday is the date when you’re officially allowed to go on a Saga holiday. But who wants to shuffle around with the oldies when 50 is the new 30? Let’s do something adventurous to celebrate your half century.
Arguably, the ultimate trip is an Antarctic expedition cruise on a small ship to navigate the world’s most pristine and dramatic waters, encountering icebergs, whales and penguins.
In Egypt you can cruise the Nile on a Dahabiya, a traditional sailing boat. A private charter for up to 12 people can be arranged, perhaps combining it with a trip to the Pyramids in Giza.
If your birthday is in the winter months, how about Colombia. Where else can you find so many highlights of South America – beaches, jungle, mountains, coffee plantations, colonial cities and rainforest – in such a friendly little country? This 14-night Classic Colombia tour is great value.
Or head to Thailand. Away from the budget backpackers, you could take a cruise on the Chao Phraya River, visit the Elephant Nature Park, or stay on stunning Koyao Island Resort. Experience Travel Group has a great selection of holiday ideas in Thailand.
If you want some luxury and old-fashioned style, take a four-day ride on the Eastern & Oriental Express between Bangkok and Singapore with gourmet dining on board and lots of fascinating excursions along the way.
For nature lovers there are few more thrilling destinations than the Galapagos Islands where Darwin was inspired to discover the Theory of Evolution. You can get up close with turtles, giant tortoises, seals and exotic birdlife.
Long haul beaches
Stranded in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, Bermuda offers an interesting combination of world-class beaches, good food and quirky colonial style. It’s safe and civilised and works well in our summer with the option of an onward flight to New York.
If you don’t like jetlag, consider Mauritius. It’s an overnight flight but barely any time difference. The hotels are outstanding, the people are charming and the beaches are beautiful and there are places to visit such as botanical gardens.
When is your birthday?
For holiday ideas dedicated to the month of your birthday, click here. We also have ideas for holidays in winter and over the Christmas period. Also check out our recommendations for 40th birthday holidays and 60th birthday holidays. And if you’re considering travelling alone, check out these singles holidays for over-50s.
Last updated: 5 March 2020
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